The selling, marketing and management of soccer in the USA
Gary Hopkins, 2010, Palgrave Macmillan
I have to start this review with a warning. If you have the opinion that commercialization is bad for soccer and that financial analysts should have no say in the clubs, then better don’t read this book. Star-Spangled Soccer is the story how soccer was revived in the US after the World Cup 1994. That may sound romantic but in reality it was the search for a sustainable business model for a soccer league and its clubs.
If an author would have written the history of US soccer as a drama beginning of the nineties the storyline could not have been more fitting for a movie than it was in reality. Coming on the world stage with the bang of the World Cup 94, then a delayed but still successful start of the soccer league, everything was on the edge and close to collapse and to finally make a turn into a happy end. An happy end not too kitschy with world domination but at least with a league with a stable fan base and a constantly growing number of teams. Hopkins describes all that in detail. He seems to have a lot of background information about the events and he writes about them in an entertaining style. The data and financial information he shows are always spot on. They never get boring but move the story along and make it clear to the reader, why you have to see soccer as a business model when you want to start with a professional league, which can be taken serious. Growing from grass root movements doesn’t work when you don’t have 100 years and especially in the US grass root organization diversify so quickly that growth rather diverts them than bringing them together under one roof. Therefore you have to think big at the beginning.
The book also works well as a history book, especially for nineties, but it also provides rare insights,e.g., into the youth soccer systems in the US, which works quite differently than in Europe and its lack of success. Although one might not think it, when one starts to read chapter titles like “Selling Soccer to America”, Hopkins is a soccer expert and he has good suggestions at hand at the end of the book, how the success story can be further moved forward and not only in financial terms.
Comparing the book with Bamboo Goalposts and the failure of establishing soccer in China shows nicely, how it can be done and how better not to do it. It makes no sense to try to use an accelerated model of how Europe established their soccer leagues. Modern times need modern methods to create some excitement about a newly introduced sport, that means you need sponsoring, you need TV coverage, you need soccer stadiums and you need stars. Without some business model behind it that is impossible to achieve. Gary Hopkins shows in his book how it can be done.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3